Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any act that involves the use or threat of force to coerce a person into engaging in non-consensual sex. It can include anything from verbal harassment and threats of force to physical penetration and other types of forced sex.

Sexual assault and rape are a crime and a public health problem. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It can happen anywhere. It can occur when a victim is at work or school, in their own home, on the street, or with a friend or acquaintance.

It is possible to prevent sexual violence by promoting healthy relationships, behaviors and policies. Prevention is everyone’s responsibility. People can also support and believe survivors and help them find resources for support.

The majority of perpetrators of sexual violence are someone known to the victim – approximately eight out of 10. The majority of victims of sexual assault and rape are women.

Research has found that the majority of sexual assaults are not committed as acts of passion and that people are not motivated to commit a sex offence by the desire for sexual gratification, but rather by a desire for power and control over others (Becker & Hunter, 1994; Finklehor, 1998). There is an increasing recognition that sexually abusive behavior often results from a complex combination of factors.

Prevalence data on sexual violence are limited, and most studies have been conducted in clinical settings or nongovernmental organizations, which only sample a small percentage of the population and therefore produce underestimates of prevalence. Using population-based surveys to measure the number of people who have experienced sexual violence is the most accurate way to estimate the size of the problem.

In addition to a need for greater integration of theories, the study of sexual violence needs to focus on understanding how various situational and individual variables influence each other. For example, it is important to understand how a person’s ability to communicate effectively plays a role in their decision to engage in sexually abusive behavior and the ways that this relates to the ability of other individuals to respond to the offender’s actions.

If you are able to do so safely, intervene in situations of disrespectful and problematic behavior. It is much safer and more effective to call out behaviour or to intervene as a group. If this is not possible, then tell the person directly that what they are doing is inappropriate and ask them if they are OK. If all else fails, walk away – it is often better to leave than try to confront an assailant while they are threatening or attacking you. If this is not possible, then contact the authorities as soon as possible and report what has happened. Do not bathe, douche or change clothes – this can destroy evidence and may make it difficult for a police investigation to take place. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. This will help reduce the risk of infection and other medical problems associated with sexual trauma.